La PORTE — Ever since La Porte's boys tennis team suffered a gut-wrenching, 3-2 sectional semifinal loss to New Prairie last year, the Slicers have been pointing toward this day.
The day finally arrived and La Porte made the most of it against its fiercest rival.
On the strength of quick starts at most positions, the Slicers pulled away and topped a dogged Michigan City squad, 5-0, to capture their own sectional on Thursday at the LeRoy Courts in Kesling Park.
“It feels phenomenal,” La Porte's Tristen Poe said. “Being my senior year, we were always striving to win the sectional. A lot of hard work and dedication by all the players went into this. I couldn't have done it without them.”
Andy Emmons gave the Slicers (16-6) a big boost by racing out to a big early lead at No. 1 singles. He was quickly ahead 5-0 in the first set. Emmons ended up cruising to the straight-set win, 6-1, 6-0 over Connor Reynolds of the Wolves (7-11).
La Porte's No. 2 doubles duo of Liam Wolf and Brock Schultz then began to take control in the second half of their opening set. That allowed them to claim that set 6-2, before rolling in the ensuing set, 6-0, over Kyle Yackus and Ryan Cuma.
Just like a day earlier, Alex Ake clinched the Slicers' victory, outlasting Luke Poulin at No. 3 singles, 6-3, 6-4.
“I'm really happy for the seniors,” La Porte coach Don Varda said. “Andy and Tristen have worked so hard this year. I'm extremely happy for them. I'm also really happy for the whole team. It was real special.”
At No. 1 doubles, Poe and Carson Stalbaum downed John Bruning and Lucas White 6-2, 6-3. It was tied 2-2 in the first set, when the Slicers’ duo broke serve to go ahead 3-2 in that set to seize command. It was also 4-3 La Porte in the second set, before Poe and Stalbaum won the last two games to claim it, 6-3.
“We were working off each other,” Poe said of his rapport with Stalbaum. “From the get-go, I was always a baseline hitter, while he would be up at the net. So really, we couldn’t have asked for a better setup. Carson, I love him to death. He’s quite a character. Just his passion for the sport comes out.”
To close the contest, the Slicers' Graham Siefker prevailed at No. 2 singles over Josiah Miller, 6-4, 6-3.
The Wolves were highly competitive at No. 2 singles, No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles, even though they lost as a team.
“If two or three points go differently here, we're going three sets in one of those (three) matches,” City coach Mike Tsugawa said. “La Porte was definitely doubles' strong. La Porte's a better team and they'll do really well at the regional. I'm about as pleased as I could be with my team.”
Varda was thoroughly impressed with numerous players on his squad.
“Liam Wolf and Brock Schultz shined because they're getting better as a team,” Varda said. “They're getting more confidence. Liam is a true leader for us. Andy Emmons played extremely well. We worked really hard today and we talked about him just being relaxed and smiling and having fun. Just being relaxed and playing his game because he's an excellent player.”
On the other side, Tsugawa added various spots stood out.
“Our No. 1 doubles played a fantastic match,” he said. “It was 2-6, 3-6. Then we went 4-6 in a couple of sets at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. At No. 3, Luke Poulin, who was a JV player a year ago, started this year playing JV. At No. 2, Josiah, a couple weeks ago was playing doubles and had not played a varsity singles match in his life. For him to come out and win Wednesday night in straight sets, we certainly didn't count on that. Both No. 2 and No. 3 singles played fantastic tennis. They're both coming back next year.”
The Wolves lose two players to graduation, the No. 1 singles player Reynolds and a No. 1 doubles player in Bruning.
"They've given us four really solid years of tennis and a lot of good times," Tsugawa added. "They had great careers."
La Porte meets Valparaiso in a La Porte Regional semifinal at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The Vikings topped Chesterton 3-2 to win the Portage Sectional. The Slicers fell 3-2 to Valpo in the regular season.
“Our goals have changed a little bit now,” Emmons said. “Now that we've won the sectional, it's how far can we go? Our team is more than capable of competing with everyone.”
La Porte Sectional
La Porte 5, Michigan City 0